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Drug Delivery Systems Evolve to Meet the Needs of Biotech Drugs, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Controlling how drugs are delivered within the body is a huge business. It is one thing to develop a drug; it is another to deliver that drug to the right place in the patient in the most effective manner, which may be something far more complex than a common pill.
Before the biotech age, drugs were generally comprised of small chemical molecules capable of being absorbed by the stomach and passed into the blood stream—drugs were swallowed as pills or liquids. However, many biotech drugs require injection (or some other form of delivery) directly into the bloodstream, because they are based on large molecules that cannot be absorbed by the stomach. A number of new drug delivery techniques that provide an alternative to needles have been developed.
One strategy uses an implantable device, controlled by a small chip, capable of releasing variable doses of multiple medications over an extended period, potentially up to one year. The miniscule implants bear a series of tiny reservoirs that release drug contents when a command is received, either through a wireless transmitter or through a pre-determined program. A firm named Microchips Biotech, Inc. (formerly MicroCHIPS, Inc.) is a leader in this field, using technology first developed at MIT. The firm holds numerous patents. In late 2014, the company completed the development and clinical demonstration of its implantable, wirelessly controlled and programmable microchip-based drug delivery device that is capable of storing and releasing precise doses of a drug on-demand or at scheduled intervals for up to 16 years. The device is designed specifically for medications to treat diabetes, female contraception and osteoporosis.
Other potential needle-free drug delivery systems include synthetic molecules attached to a drug, making it harder for the stomach to render the medicine useless before it reaches the bloodstream. High-tech inhalers, which force medicine through the lungs, have also been developed. For the patient, this means less pain as well as the promise of better outcomes. Needle-free systems may also make toxic drugs safer and give older drugs new life. For example, the painkiller Fentanyl is available in a lozenge form for cancer patients (it is also available in transdermal patch form for other chronic pain).
Some firms are developing techniques to encapsulate or rearrange drug molecules into more sturdy compounds that release steady, even doses over a prolonged period. A patch developed by Alza Corp., now part of Johnson & Johnson, developed a device that is a network of microscopic needles that deliver a drug painlessly into the first layer of the skin. Another device, made by Echo Therapeutics (formerly Sontra Medical Corp.), is called the Sensor which senses glucose levels and transmits glucose as needed, without needles. A similar technology, called the Symphony CGM System, can provide continuous, transdermal glucose monitoring. Yet another potential drug delivery system is edible film: quickly dissolving films that melt on the tongue. Already in use as a breath freshener (Listerine brand PocketPaks,), edible film is now the delivery method of choice for Novartis’ Triaminic, Theraflu Thin Strips and Gas-X Thin Strips, as well as Enlyten’s Electrolytes+ Strips for athletes.
As a materials science at the molecular, nanotechnology offers tremendous promise for the development of new drug delivery technologies. Many of the biggest breakthroughs over the mid-term will come from this arena, and dozens of companies have invested heavily in nanotech research and development for this purpose.

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